Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

Legislative Q&A with PERA’s Public and Government Affairs Manager

A winter sunset view of Colorado State Capitol Building at Downtown Denver.

In January, we spoke with Michael Steppat, PERA’s Public and Government Affairs Manager. As the Colorado legislative session winds to a close, we checked back in to get his thoughts on a number of different topics.

The legislative session usually ends in early May. However, this year’s legislative session started with a multi-week recess due to COVID-19. So where does that put us now?

The state legislature can meet for no more than 120 days. The delay essentially just extended the deadline for the general assembly to adjourn sine die—the formal term used when the legislative session ends for the year. The number of days they were on recess can just be tacked on to the end of the original end date. That means the legislature must adjourn on or before June 12.

Two bills related to PERA have passed. What can you tell us about them? What effect will they have for PERA members?

PERA retirees who go back to work at a PERA employer in retirement must follow certain rules set by law. House Bill 21-1136 modified the provisions created for judges who work in retirement. These changes were made in order to address the massive caseload backlog caused by the pandemic and only affect retired judges.

Another bill, Senate Bill 21-228, set aside funds in the current fiscal year to be used by the state for future employer contributions or disbursements to PERA. This bill does not change anything about how PERA works. This bill was created primarily to give lawmakers additional flexibility to operate within Colorado’s state budget rules.

What is the status of last year’s direct distribution, which was part of across-the-board cuts the legislature made to the budget? Will this year’s $225 million direct distribution be made to PERA?

PERA did not receive the $225 million direct distribution in 2020, however the full direct distribution to PERA was restored going forward, including this year’s payment.

Do you expect any other PERA-related bills to come up this session?

I don’t expect any more bills that are directly related to PERA.

Many pieces of major federal legislation have been passed in the past few months. Do any of these impact state finances in a way that will affect PERA?

Anything that impacts state finances can potentially have an indirect effect on PERA, as we saw last year with the budget cuts that had to be made. However, there isn’t anything we’ve seen in any of the pandemic-relief-related federal legislation that would affect PERA directly. It’s also important to keep in mind that federal law prohibits state lawmakers from using the funds sent to them in recent COVID-related legislation for pension-related purposes.

As is the case most years, there is a bill to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision in Social Security. What is the state of that bill?

House Resolution 82, which would repeal the GPO and WEP, was introduced earlier this year. While it has gained cosponsors since it was introduced in January, we haven’t seen it move through legislative process.

A second bill has also been introduced recently. While this second bill would not repeal these Social Security-related measures, it would make some changes to the WEP. See more about House Resolution 2337 here.

Comments

  1. G M Santo says:

    Thanks For The Legislative Update

    I know monitoring the General Assembly can be difficult, not with bills as they’re introduced but their final manifestations like 11th hour changes that rob PERA members (as was the case with Senate Bill 2018-200, that turned our COLA into a rigged crap shoot).

    I do NOT believe PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) do enough to lobby for members. For example, why isn’t PERA B.S. lobbying legislators and the governor to back-fill as well as make advance direct disbursements to counter the lack of 2020’s contribution; additionally, why is there no effort to provide a real COLAs (based on the Denver-Boulder C.P.I. and not some low wage urban clerical wage index, which will be dropped like a hot potato if minimum wage movements succeed and reflect real increases in our annual adjustments); and finally, why do increases in PERAcare premiums, especially for pre-Medicare members, belie the fact that (besides being poor programs) inflation is already rampant and PERA benefits ARE NOT KEEPING UP!

    In closing, if Sine Die is within a couple of weeks, WHY HASN’T PERA B.S. ORGANIZED A “PERA MEMBERS AT THE LEGISLATURE DAY” to let our fine elected representatives know that perhaps THOUSANDS of voters are watching them… I think lack of this basic exercise in civics and the right of political expression is evidence that PERA B.S. works for someone other than its members (or does PERA B.S. contend they’d just mess that up?).

  2. Pixel Chi says:

    It seems to me the democrat controlled legislature owes PERA $225 million for last years cancelled direct contribution. This year, the legislature is rolling in money and although they supposedly can’t use Covid federal monies for retirement purposes we also know the legislature is skilled in the art of the carnival midway trick of washing money using shell game maneuvers to move, hide and redistribute funds when needed. If they really wanted to pay their debt to PERA and show good faith they could.

  3. Cherie Roberton says:

    Since the State received COVID-19 relief funds there should still be funds in the budget to pay back a portion if not all of the $225,000,000 they withheld from PERA last year without using the COVID-19 funds. The COVID-19 funds could be used to fund other projects, etc. that have been allocated in the budget and therefore would not be funding a pension plan. A plan the members pay and have paid into. It seems to me the State government can double dip but the average citizen is prevented from doing so. Since they are apparently experts at “reallocation” of funds it shouldn’t be a problem.

  4. Melinda Townsend says:

    I would appreciate knowing what PERA is doing to lobby and advocate for the bill that’s been introduced to the federal legislature to eliminate WEP and GPO?

    • G M Santo says:

      Melinda (and others with the same inquiry),

      I hope you dropped & dragged my three sentence letter every PERA member needs to send to their elected federal representatives… that is I hope you copied it BEFORE PERA POTI* deleted it?!

      Write your elected federal representatives to support H.R. – 82, The Fairness in Social Security Act of 2021.

      __________________
      Footnote * – One way to know it’s the “write” thing to do, is that PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) tries to muzzle you!

  5. G M Santo says:

    Melinda (and others with the same inquiry),

    I hope you dropped & dragged my three sentence letter every PERA member needs to send to their elected federal representatives… that is I hope you copied it BEFORE PERA POTI* deleted it?!

    Write your elected federal representatives to support H.R. – 82, The Fairness in Social Security Act of 2021.

    __________________
    Footnote * – One way to know it’s the “write” thing to do, is that PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) tries to muzzle you!

    • Brenda Williams says:

      Why isn’t social security held accountable for their mistakes. They figured my amount of check wrong (because of WEP) which they take 100% fault for. I did everything I was expected to do and in the correct time frame. But they say that even if they are 100% in the wrong, I will how to pay for their mistake. I no longer want to be a surgery nurse, I want to work for Social Security so I don’t have to worry about making a mistake. I am paying back money with interest which really is my money to begin with. How crooked can these people get and will be for 2 more years. The world has lost all ethics when SS can do this to a person. I worked 25 years under SS but receive $0.00 for the next 2 years.

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